Richard Saturnino Owens
November 18, 1962
Richard Saturnino Owens (born November 18, 1962) is a Paris-based American fashion designer from Porterville, California. In addition to his main line, Owens has a furniture line and a number of diffusion lines.
Early life and education
Rick Owens was raised in Porterville, California. His parents are John (d. 2015) and Concepción "Connie" Owens. Connie is Mexican. Owens was raised in a conservative, Catholic household. After graduating high school, he moved to Los Angeles to study art at Otis College of Art and Design, in Los Angeles, for two years before taking pattern-making and draping courses at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. This led to work in the garment industry, designing copies of designer clothing.
Owens launched his fashion line in 1994, operating out of a store in Hollywood Boulevard. He moved to Paris in 2003 with his companion Michèle Lamy, whom he married in 2006, and set up his home and atelier inside a historic five-story building that previously served as offices for former French President François Mitterrand. His runway collections have been mounted in Paris since then. In 2004, Owens and Michèle Lamy established their own fashion company Owenscorp, and described their business partnership as “asking a gypsy to organise a war with a fascist.”
In 2013, Owens exhibited his 'Prehistoric' collection at Carpenters Workshop Gallery in London. Owens' design colour palette in this seven piece collection stretches from white to black, stopping nowhere in between. "The show is entitled 'Prehistoric' – a name that reflects its inspiration, the origins of humanity, it recalls a mysterious ancient civilization. Its aura is one of spiritual ritual, archaic ceremony and supreme power".
A recipient of the 2002 Perry Ellis Award for emerging talent and the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in 2017, Owens was also awarded the Cooper-Hewitt Design Award for fashion design, as well as the Fashion Group International Rule Breaker Award in 2007. His first museum exhibition and retrospective, chronicling over 20 years of his life's work, entitled, "Subhuman Inhuman Superhuman" opened at the Triennale di Milano on December 15, 2017. In June 2019, Owens won Menswear Designer of the Year Award at the 2019 Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Fashion Awards.
Owens has authored 3 books — L'ai-je bien descendu?, published in 2007, Rick Owens, published in 2011, and Rick Owens Furniture, followed by 2 books about Larry LeGaspi, which was published in November 2019 by publisher Rizzoli.
He had launched five labels including Rick Owens, DRKSHDW, Rick Owens Lilies, Slab (Defunct), and HUNRICKOWENS (previously "Palais Royal"). In 2018 and 2019, he has collaborated with Birkenstock and French sneaker brand Veja, respectively. The latter collaboration continued for five seasons, with its conclusion announced in November 2021. Owens added to this series of partnerships in 2020, designing capsules in collaboration with Moncler and American activewear brand Champion. In a 2017 interview with WWD, the brand was reported to have brought in $120 million the previous year. Owens noted in the same interview that his label planned to remain independent from corporate investment.
In 2019, Owens dedicated his fashion show to Larry LeGaspi, the man he considers his creative forefather. He introduced Gaspi in his fall and winter 2019 women's runway collection, "For me, as a teenager growing up in Porterville, California, what Larry LeGaspi did was a huge thing—the way he infiltrated middle America with this subversive sensibility [...] [h]e connects with soul culture—black soul culture and music [...] [a]ll of this stuff coming together was very important to this kid in Porterville." And, "I do think of Larry’s as a kind of biblical story... about the glory of lust and vice, something I talk about a lot, but also about dissipation and decline—which I also talk about a lot... When I was 15, I wanted to be dissipated. And now I am, a little bit. But there is also responsibility." In November 2019, Owens returned to Los Angeles for the first time in 16 years to introduce the books.
The “Creatch” cargo pants originated from the Spring/Summer 2008 collection and reappears in almost every subsequent collection in menswear. The design remains the same: a straight leg, drop-crotch pants with an elasticated waist, circular velcro sash, and one cargo pocket on each leg.
Stooges leather jacket
The Stooges leather jacket was worn by Kate Moss in the French Vogue magazine and gave Owens prominence within the fashion industry. With the help from Anna Wintour and Vogue, Owens produced his first runway show, ‘Sparrows,’ in the Spring/Summer 2002 collection at New York Fashion week, featuring this leather jacket design. The biker jacket is constructed with angular flaps and an asymmetric zipper, made up of washed leather.
Rick Owens first unveiled these sneakers in his Fall/Winter 2006 collection "Dustulator" along with an unreleased "Cut-Out" women-exclusive version of the Dunks, made famous by Russian supermodel Sasha Pivoravova who wore them in a photoshoot. The rarity of these samples has sent existing pairs to astronomical resell prices. These first-edition sneakers were of poor quality, with the upper and sole simply glued together, but the Dunk's final form appeared in the SS06 collection with the Shearling/Nubuck Dunk followed by one which was released for FW06 "Dustulator". All these early models are characterized by metal staples, which visibly bind the sole. These Dunks have a characteristic detail on the shoes' sides, resembling the Nike Swoosh, a reversed rendition of the Puma stripe and Adidas' three stripes as an stitching detail behind the "swoosh" applique. The imitation of Adidas became more evident with the Dunks released for FW09, "Crust", devoid of the "swoosh" detail but decorated with three side seams similar to the three stripes. According to legend Nike had sent a cease-and-desist to the designer to stop production of the Dunks, which Owens went on to mention in an interview that the letter made him "swoon", although a Grailed article by Asaf Rotman reports that there is no concrete evidence that the letter was ever sent and Nike never said it had. The Dunks remained on sale until at least 2010 in the brand's stores.
The Geobasket, a basketball-style sneaker derived from the Dunk silhouette, was introduced in 2010 and features a characteristic angular applique on the medial and lateral sides, as well as a medial zipper for easy access. According to Luca Ruggeri, the commercial director of Rick Owens, the Geobasket has been the best-selling product in the label's menswear lineup since its inception.
Rick Owens produces a menswear and womenswear collection each season, both under the same title and based on the same theme and references.
The Plinth Collection was shown in Owens's Fall/Winter 2013 menswear show. The pieces started out with an A-line silhouette, incorporating an oversized military-like sleeve which intended to make the arms more powerful. The jackets were belted high. The look finishes off with large boots which add a level of solidity. The models’ hair were teased in which the designer decided to name the style, “Boy Chantilly.”
Owens's Spring/Summer 2014 womenswear collection, ‘Vicious,’ had a team of step dancers with members of the Zetas, Washington Divas, Soul Steppers and Momentums, walk down the runway. Owens continues to challenge accepted beauty standards, however this time, he does so without traditional models. The girls wore utilitarian garments while stomping and posing with strong and aggressive movements.
The Sphinx Collection came out in his Fall/Winter 2015 men's show where garments were intentionally draped over to reveal frontal male nudity. Each model was carefully chosen based on his height and proportions so that the fabric would not reveal too much or too little of his number. The clothes had a porthole over the groin of the models, taking inspiration from a submarine setting of an old French movie. The peacoats were cut from Berber blankets, one of which had a couture-like cape back and another which had submarine rust, symbolic of decay. Cable-knit sweaters were stretched down into a full-length piece. The silhouettes were long in the front and high cut in the back.
BABEL S/S 19
The Spring-Summer 2019 collection makes reference to constructivist architecture, mainly the biblical Tower of Babel and Tatlin's Tower. Owens’ eldritch geometries served to emphasise his affection for Russian Constructivism, which can be seen in the bold stripes, the angular dissections of t-shirts, and the sweeping polyhedron-like capes and coats, which had the sacerdotal quality of Owens at his most optimistic.
Scandal during the Cyclops Spring/Summer 2016 menswear show
During the Cyclops Spring/Summer 2016 men's show in Paris, male fashion muse, artist, and musician Jera Diarc, who worked for Owens as model, held up a sign that read, "Please Kill Angela Merkel. Not." This action overshadowed the entire week, gained worldwide attention, and went viral.
There was a lot of speculation regarding whether this was political activism, an art performance, or a simple stunt on Jera's part, or was deliberately staged as part of the show's theme of "protest and male aggression".
Owens distanced himself from it and stressed that he and his company hadn't known anything about it in advance; he also banned Jera from his shows. Owens went on to call Jera his muse in several statements which he gave afterwards.
When Jera was asked about the incident in an interview with the magazine High Snobiety, he was vague and didn't reveal exactly what he had been aiming for with the stunt. He ended the interview with the statement, "Everything for rckNrll. Everything for art. Everything for the cause. And the cause is above everything."
In addition to designing clothes, Owens designs furniture. His furniture was originally custom-designed and tailored for his own use while in Paris. Owens's furniture line is influenced by architectural elements such as Brutalism and German World War II bunkers, characterized by angular movements and sculptural forms. He occasionally incorporates a pair of antlers, mimicking asymmetric wings to a pair of chairs. Owens is now represented by a design gallery called Jousse Entreprise.
His first furniture show in Berlin was made possible by the publisher, Angelika Taschen. Taschen has known Owens and his wife since they lived in Los Angeles. Taschen included his Parisian living space in her book, New Paris Interiors. She was taken away by Owens's eye for furniture design and wanted his work to be showcased in her hometown, Berlin. The Berlin Gallery Weekend 2010 took place from April 30 to May 2 in which 40 galleries mounted new exhibitions. Presented by Taschen, Owens's show, ‘To Pop A Boner,’ was on display at the famous Apartment store.
In July 2005, Owens introduced a furniture collection. Using raw plywood, marble, alabaster, bronze, leather, and moose antlers, the collection is inspired by his favorite shapes from Eileen Gray to Brâncuși to California skate parks. The furniture collection has since been shown at the Musée d'Art modern in Paris and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Owens credits his wife, Michèle Lamy, as the creative force behind his furniture show. The exhibit showcases new works as well as classic pieces, in which some were envisioned for this newest store located in Soho, New York. The couple has worked together throughout the design process for his furniture line. Owens comes up with the drawings in which Lamy then creates the preliminary models for. Before his wife hires artisans to create the final pieces, the two carve, re-proportion, and make any adjustments beforehand. Owens leaves the installation process in Lamy's hands, who writes the summaries for the pieces as well.
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